Weekly Digest – 15 December 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Auckland Borders Reopen

After nearly four months of being in lockdown due to the Delta outbreak, those who are fully vaccinated or have had a negative COVID-19 test result in the past 72 hours can travel into or out of Auckland without an exemption starting 15 December.

PM to Review Border Reopening in January

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the planned reopening to Australia-based New Zealanders, set for 17 January, would be subject to a last-minute review in early January. According to COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins, while it’s very likely that the border reopening will proceed, they need to review the decision because of the Omicron variant.

As of 15 December, 7.9 million doses have been administered, and 3.7 million people are fully vaccinated. This means the country has hit the 90% milestone for COVID vaccine double doses.

New Border Exception for Tech Sector

Border class exceptions for 600 much-needed specialist tech workers have been announced today by the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, Dr David Clark. The tech sector is one of NZ’s top three exporters, and the class exception should relieve some of the pressure on tech firms and support their growth.

Further details regarding the border exception process will be provided in the New Year.

Food and Fibre Exports Forecast to Hit a Record $50.8 Billion

Food and fibre export revenue is projected to surge to a record $50.8 billion in the year to 30 June 2022, representing a 6% increase over the previous year. High demand for dairy products combined with strong export prices are expected to deliver an estimated 10% increase in dairy export revenue to $20.9 billion.

Meanwhile, meat export revenue is forecast to increase by 6% to $11.1 billion, driven by recovering export prices and demand for meat products that are helping to fill the global protein shortage.

You can find the latest Ministry for Primary Industries’ Situation and Outlook for Primary here.

Manufacturing Activity Declines in November

The manufacturing sector saw a lower level of expansion for November. The Bank of New Zealand-Business NZ’s seasonally adjusted Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) was 50.6, down from 54.3 in the previous month.

A reading above 50 represents an expansion in activity, while any figure below that threshold indicates a contraction.

New Zealand Forecasts Quicker Return to Budget Surplus

The government expects that New Zealand will return to budget surplus sooner than expected and will take on lesser debt as the economy has been more resilient than previously forecasted.

According to the treasury department, the deficit will widen to $20.8 billion in the current year, but the books will return to a surplus in 2023/24, about two years ahead of previous forecasts.

Meanwhile, GDP is expected to decline by about 6% in the September quarter, due the economic impact of the Delta outbreak. However, it will gradually recover over the December and March 2022 quarters, growing 3.7% and 3.8%, respectively. The GDP is expected to reach 4.9% by 2023/24.

In 2021/22, net debt will be higher at 37.6% of GDP in 2021/22, compared to 34% forecasted in May. Net debt will peak at 40.1% by 2022/23, before declining to 30.2% by the end of the forecasted period.

Summer Hotel Bookings Down 30 to 70%

Hotel bookings over the summer are down 30-70% compared to previous years, while restaurants and bars reported decline in activity by as much as 80%, according to Hospitality New Zealand.

However, a government-led voucher programme over the summer may also help attract visitors.

What You Need to Know About the Traffic Light System

The new Covid-19 Protection Framework or the traffic light system is now being implemented in New Zealand. Here’s what you need to know:

Red

  • Red is the most restrictive and is applied to protect vulnerable communities and the health system from unsustainable hospitalisations due to COVID-19.
  • Face coverings are mandatory when travelling with members of the public, in retail and to an extent in education. Public facilities and retail are open with capacity limits.
  • With vaccine passes, businesses and gatherings are limited to 100 people.
  • Without vaccine passes, hospitality must remain contactless and gatherings are limited to 25 people.
  • Auckland and some parts of the North Island are in the “red” zone.

Orange

  • Orange is intended for regions where community transmission is pressuring the health system.
  • With vaccine passes, there are no limits on gathering sizes.
  • Without vaccine passes, hospitality is still contactless while gathering size limits double to 50.

Green

  • Green is the least restrictive and would only be applied when there’s limited community transmission and hospitalisations are manageable.
  • Face coverings are only mandatory on flights and in some settings where vaccine passes are not used.
  • There are no limits to businesses and gatherings with vaccine passes.
  • Without passes, gathering sizes are limited to 100 people. Hospitality may return to in-person service, but customers must be 1-metre away from each other.

How to Get ‘My Vaccine Pass’

The government has launched its vaccine pass or certificates, which allows New Zealanders to download proof that they are fully vaccinated.

The “My Vaccine Pass” will take the form of a QR code that can be shown digitally or on printed paper, allowing venues to check whether a person has been vaccinated or not.

Once you are fully vaccinated, you can access My Covid Record, and make a My Health Account via this website. You will need an email address, password, and proof of identity to create an account.

For those without a smartphone or access to a computer, you may call 0800 222 478 to request a My Vaccine Pass.

Events Transition Support Scheme Launched

The Events Transition Support Scheme has been opened from this week which will cover 90% of unrecoverable costs for major events cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. It will apply to live, in-person paid events with over 5,000 attendees from 17 December until 3 April 2022.

Support available to you

Work and Income has a Find COVID-19 Support tool to help you find the support options you’re eligible for.

Support for Businesses to Transition to Traffic Light System

A payment of up to $24,000 would be available to businesses as they moved into the new traffic light system for managing the pandemic. This one-off transition payment would be activated through the Resurgence Support Payment system and would be available on 10 December.

The payment is at a higher base rate than the current RSP and will be $4,000 per business, plus $400 per full-time employee up to a cap of 50 FTEs. The estimated total cost of the payment is between $350 million and $490 million.

Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme

If you employ 50 or fewer staff, you may be able to apply for the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme. This is a one-off 5 year loan where you can borrow a maximum of $10,000 plus $1,800 per full-time-equivalent employee within your business.

  • When applying for the loan, you need to be able to declare that your business is viable.
  • Your business must have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, compared with the same month last year.
  • Applications are open until 31 December 2023 through myIR. If your business does not have a myIR account, you will need to create one to apply.

Loans will be interest free if they are paid back within 2 years. The interest rate is 3% for a maximum term of 5 years.

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

If an employee cannot work from home while self-isolating, you may be able to apply for financial support so they can continue to get paid.

The Leave Support Scheme is paid as a 2 week lump sum at the rate of:

  • $600 a week for full-time employees
  • $359 a week for part-time employees

You cannot get the Wage Subsidy August 2021, Leave Support Scheme and Short-Term Absence Payment for the same employee at the same time.

COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment

The Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses, including self-employed people, to help pay employees who cannot work from home while they wait at home for a COVID-19 test result. This is a one-off payment of $350. You can find the details here.

New Tool for Businesses

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood today announced a new tool to help businesses assess whether they should be requiring workers to be vaccinated. This assessment tool will be available from mid-December.

When the new traffic light system comes into place from 3 December, it will be a requirement for vaccine passes to be shown for those businesses that opt into it. The tool provides a clear legal framework to help businesses and other employers to decide about vaccinations in the workplace.

Businesses that opt in should use the passes, and those which fail to enforce them will face penalties from $300 to $12,000 for a company, or $15,000 for a court-imposed fine for a company.

Kiwi Business Boost Tool

The Government has funded specialist consultancy support services to provide advice to businesses who need it. You can use the Kiwi Business Boost Tool to find out what services are available in your region.

The Treasury website’s COVID-19 Economic Response Measures can also provide more information on the range of support available to businesses.

Training Incentive Allowance

The Training Incentive Allowance can help with tuition fees, books, childcare, equipment, transport and any additional caring costs while studying. It’s available for courses at levels 1-7 of the NZ Qualifications Framework. Visit the Work and Income website to find out who’s eligible, how much you can get and who can apply.

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